Germany’s Highest Court Overturns Anti-Terrorism Data Law

March 2 (Bloomberg) — Germany’s highest court overturned a two-year-old anti-terrorism law that requires telecommunications providers such as Deutsche Telekom AG to store Internet and phone data for six months, saying the rules violate privacy.

The law, which came into effect in December 2007 during Chancellor Angela Merkel’s previous government, calls for phone companies to collect data on phone calls, Internet surfing and text messaging for potential use in criminal or terrorist investigations.

The Federal Constitutional Court found that while the storing of communications data isn’t automatically unconstitutional, the law doesn’t sufficiently clarify what the information will be used for or provide for transparency.

The data “must be deleted immediately,” Hans-Juergen Papier, the court’s president, said today as he read out the decision in the western city of Karlsruhe.

Merkel’s government passed the law as part of its efforts to fight crime and terrorism, implementing a European Union directive adopted after the March 2004 bomb attack on Spanish trains that killed 191 people. While prosecutors had access to the data, the law provided limits against storing conversation details or identifying specific Web sites.

Privacy advocates challenged the legislation soon after it came into effect. Some 35,000 complaints were filed to the court, the most in its history, Deutsche Presse-Agentur said.

Strictest Standards

“This blanket data saving must conform to the very strictest constitutional standards in order to be effective,” Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger told reporters in Berlin. “This is a day to be very happy.”

The court said collected information can only be made available through a court warrant. Investigators also must be limited to use such data to pursue a proven “concrete danger” directed against a person or the security of the state. The data can also be used to prevent a “communal danger.”

The judges in Karlsruhe also said service providers should not be allowed to have “uncontrolled” discretion over how information is stored and secured.

Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, a member of the Free Democratic Party, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s junior coalition partner, declined to say when the government would begin drafting a new data-storage law.

–Editors: Alan Crawford, Leon Mangasarian

(Update adds justice minister comments from seventh paragraph.)

By Patrick Donahue
March 02, 2010, 8:12 AM EST

Source: Bloomberg

1 thought on “Germany’s Highest Court Overturns Anti-Terrorism Data Law

  1. Germany’s highest court Tuesday overturned laws that allowed anti-terror authorities to retain data on telephone calls and e-mails, stating it was an intrusion of Citizens’ personal privacy.

    Where Did U.S. Government Put Your NSA-Wiretapped Phone, Fax and Private Email Communications? Neither Congress nor the courts—determined what NSA electronic surveillance could be used by police or introduced into court by U.S. Government to prosecute Citizens and e.g., foreign businesses doing business in America. It appears NSA can share its electronic-domestic-spying with countless U.S. police agencies; including government contracted companies and private individuals that have security clearances to facilitate criminal and civil prosecutions that may include forfeiture of Americans’ property—-to keep part of the assets. Police too easily can take an innocent person’s “wiretapped” hastily written email, fax or phone call out of context to allege a crime or violation was committed. There are over 200 U.S. laws and violations mentioned in the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 and the Patriot Act that can subject property to civil asset forfeiture.” Under federal civil forfeiture laws, a person or business need not be charged with a crime for government to forfeit their property. Government is required only to show “A preponderance of Evidence” to civilly forfeit assets. Rep. Henry Hyde’s bill HR 1658 passed, the “Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000” and effectively eliminated the “statue of limitations” for Government Civil Asset Forfeiture. The statute now runs five years from when police allege they “learned” that an asset became subject to forfeiture. President Obama’s recently signed Executive Order EO 12425 that will allow INTERPOL to act within the United States without being subject to 4th Amendment laws against illegal Search and Seizure. U.S. Police may circumvent Fourth Amendment protections by bringing INTERPOL into a criminal or civil investigation to spy, make arrests and to forfeit assets from persons in the U.S. that may be shared with U.S. police.

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